For the past several days, a lot of heat has been generated by a statement allegedly made by former first lady Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, to the effect that Western-oriented formal education began among the Akyem before spiraling outward into Fanteland and other ethnic and sub-ethnic states and enclaves in modern Ghana (See “Nana Konadu: Formal Education in Ghana Started with the Akyems, Not Fantes” VibeGhana.com 10/13/11).
What most of the reporters of Mrs. Rawlings’ remark gapingly, albeit also significantly, failed to include in their dispatches is the fact that the speaker’s historiographical reference point squarely regarded Basel missionary activities in both pre-colonial and colonial Ghana.
At any rate, contrary to what received stereotypes would have most Ghanaians believe, the oldest higher educational institution in Ghana, and the second-oldest in West Africa, is the Basel/Scottish missionary-founded Presbyterian Teachers’ Training College (PTC) located at Akyem-settled Akuapem-Akropong, and not anywhere in Fanteland! It is clearly this unsavory sort of stereotype which the longtime and former Ghanaian first lady sought to dispel.
Unarguably, Akropong PTC was the finest academy of its kind in our country prior to the establishment of the Danquah-championed University of Ghana, Legon. Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings is also not totally off-tangent to claim that Basel missionary activities took firm roots in the Eastern and Greater-Accra regions before spreading westwards and northwards to other parts of the country, including the Winneba Presbyterian Schools which were officially established by my own maternal grandfather, Rev. T. H. Sintim (1896-1982), of Akyem-Begoro and Akyem-Asiakwa circa. 1945 (See the 50th Anniversary Brochure of the Winneba Presbytery).
Of course, every reasonably well-educated Ghanaian secondary school graduate is well aware of Catholic missionary activities on the Ghanaian littoral, largely in Fante and Ahanta and Nzema parts of the country, between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. The significant difference here, however, is that unlike the Basel/Scottish missionaries of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the pioneering Catholic missionaries almost squarely centered their activities around the massive enslavement of Africans by European Christian merchants and traders from Portugal and Spain.
It is also a matter of public record that even today, while the momentous impact of Catholic education in Ghana cannot be off-handedly dismissed (being partly a product of Catholic education myself), nonetheless, credit for the lion’s share of the spread of formal education in modern Ghana indisputably belongs to the Presbyterians and the Methodists, the latter of whom have had far greater impact on the Fante and Ghanaians, in general, than the Catholics.
Besides, it ought not to be forgotten that early Catholic education, particularly the so-called Castle Schools, were parochially and almost exclusively tailored towards the welfare of “Coastal Mulattoes,” the children of European slave traders by their African wives and concubines, and the primary administrative needs of these slave traders. So, really, there is not much of which we ought to be exuberantly proud or incontinently celebratory about, even as Mr. Dominic Sagoe would have his readers believe.
You see, I hate to go out and tell people that it was my maternal uncle and Akropong PTC-trained teacher Mr. Samuel Nicholas Adu (Opanyin Kwaku ’Osi) of Akyem-Asiakwa, who was the first Black-African to pilot a train in Ghana, in 1931, only to have some haughty cynic tell me that there is a far greater likelihood for that pioneer to have been a Fante rather than an herb-picking Akyem. This is precisely what makes Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings’ “apocryphal” revision of the history of modern Ghanaian education worth all the attention it deserves!
Still, as to whether Mrs. Rawlings’ remark is ideologically or politically tinged, is a prime subject for another discourse in the near future. For now, suffice it, however, to conclude that even allowing for the incontrovertible forensic credibility of the received narrative of the history of Christian missionary activities in modern Ghana, the fact also indisputably remains that when it comes to the Saltpond-Anomabu area of Fanteland, the significant “Akyem Factor” cannot be lightly ignored.
Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and aut
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